As a kid I always liked music that I knew my parents would hate. That's what I blame for my (long expired) infatuation with Korn and System of A Down but I must admit Rage Against The Machine is a much cherished nugget I have carried with me for the years. As I got older and stopped hanging out with my parents I found that it got harder and harder to listen to truly experimental and jaw-dropping music because all my peers were either into way more left of centre shit like early Animal Collective, Health, Portland's AU or even local champions I'll's or Sydney's Seekae. But a New York act who have always managed to keep listeners confounded and dumbly engaged with their cacophony of beats is Black Dice.
The three-piece consists of Bjorn Copeland and his brother Eric plus Aaron Warren who between the three of them manipulate sequencers, samples, synths, drums and guitars to produce what is best described as a blip-based abortion.
Having formed in 1997, well before experimental music had reached the popularity it has today, Black Dice didn't really have anywhere to play so they would pretty much play anywhere, and this took them not only around the US but also into some wanky gallery openings.
I have Bjorn Copeland on the phone chatting to me on the cusp of their second Australian tour where they will be playing Melbourne Festival that promises to overload the senses as they bring their audio/visual slaughterhouse to the Forum Theatre. Copeland discusses how they plan to transform the Forum with the help of their friend and 'fourth member' video projectionist Danny Perez.
"Danny is one of our oldest and dearest friends in the whole world. Eric and Aaron and him went to college together and Danny just started touring with us as a roady and a merch dude. With his background in video and film eventually we got to a point where we were like if anyone truly understands what our vision is it's him so he just started doing live projections stuff for us for years and years and years - like eight years." Copeland pauses before explaining that Perez's work with Black Dice was just the tip of the iceberg for the video-artist. "In the process he started doing stuff with Animal Collective and a bunch of film clips for Blood On The Wall and he's been doing a bunch of live projection stuff with Panda Bear. He's definitely considered the fourth member of the band."
Mentioning Animal Collective is nice segue way to Black Dice's label Paw Tracks which is run by the member's of Animal Collective. For Black Dice moving to Paw Tracks, from similarly uber cool label DFA, was a bit of a homecoming or coming full circle.
"We've known the Animal Collective guys since before they were really a band. We've known some of them for a long time like Dave Portner. He used to work at Other Music, and we got Dave to do the tracking on one of our early releases so we went down to his parent's house - he was maybe a freshman in college - and got him to track that record."
Black Dice's former label DFA Records is most famously known for it's head LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. Copeland now, with somewhat of a hint of relief in his voice, talks about changing labels. "It's been pretty normal, honestly, we have always worked with people that we are friends with. That's the main thing for us because it's not the easiest music to comprehend, luckily, all the people with worked on all the labels we've been on whatever we've wanted to do has been okay.
"It's been the same at Paw Tracks as it was DFA and same with Troubleman, all these labels have an understanding of where we're coming from. [They are] understanding with what we do, there is some level of acceptance that it's not necessarily a commercial venture. In a lot of ways that makes it easier to do what we do rather than a feeling like we have to come up with a way to sell it to people or something like that."
As asserted in the introduction to this story, Black Dice's music is dense and difficult to get into but because Copeland has been playing for 15 years he still asserts that it's pop music (no shit).
"The thing that is funny for us is that the music we play has always been weird party music in a bizarre way or maybe we just party with strange people. It is sort of conceptual but for us it is not chin-stroking music. None of us really think of it as academic music it's just a really sort of cathartic release in one way and just this power thing like dealing with volume and frequencies and it, to us, it pretty much sounds like pop music but every now and again we have wake up calls and realise, 'this is not regular pop music'."
But despite Copeland insisting that they play 'pop music' he admits that over the years there have been some disasters where the person booking Black Dice has made the booking based on the band's reputation without actually listening to them, "That's happened many many times over 15 years but it has always been interesting to say the least," he says with dull giggle.
Black Dice [US] are playing as part of The Melbourne Festival with Lucky Dragons [US] at The Forum, tickets $40, on Saturday October 8.